LT July 2015 | Highs and Lows by Saskia Fernando

It’s a taboo subject often associated with an art scene anywhere in the world. Curators shun the commercialism of the art scene almost completely, while gallerists need to focus almost entirely on securing sales. Artists shift from needing the cash and having to juggle the inspiration to create with an entirely opposite drive. The collectors most often want to know that their investment is a worthwhile one and will appreciate over time. These mixed opinions play a big part in the overall functionality of an art scene. The differing opinions and the differing players through their opinions and actions inevitably affect the market value of art works whether they like it or not.

In Sri Lanka we are now experiencing the fastest rise in the value of art in our history. The reasons for this are the growing accessibility of art to both local and international collectors, and of course the exposure and interest that has increased alongside it. Sri Lankan modern art has also put itself back into the Asian art auctions meaning that when the world refers to the South Asian art, we are on the list. Artists such as Prageeth Manohansa have seen prices increase as much as eight-fold and seven digit contemporary art prices are not as scary as they used to seem. Of course we are still looking at a currency when compared to prices of art internationally and it leaves us on the lower levels of the grid but the advantage of this lies in maintaining a sensitive, sustainable growth.

For the art scene this steady rise in prices means the industry becomes more attractive as a career choice for graduates. Most artists still need to work a full-time job but that too is changing. The only disadvantage comes about from a lack of comprehension of the need to balance the prices and not become overexcited by demand. Often artists who have struggled for a period of time take the rise in prices or interest as reasoning to immediately put higher market values on their own work. This can cause more damage than good, and have very short-term benefits.

This rise in prices does mean attractive investments for collectors however for the younger aspiring collectors it makes accessibility to art difficult. It is the affect of this that is often referred to as elitism and unavoidably linked with the art industry that plays an important role in making it work best from the value perspective.

 We are now at a crucial stage locally where collecting art is no longer about decorating your walls. There is the investment and true knowledge of internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan artists that now means that owning a contemporary Sri Lankan art collection has become more worthwhile. The continuous collaborations and increasing networking with international scenes mean this is not going to die down soon. As a gallerist one is often confronted with the frustration of collectors no longer able to get a good bargain on a painting by one of their favourite established artists. It is an understandable claim but one which affirms that over the next five years the number of contemporary Sri Lankan artists is going to increase.

Original post can be seen here.

Featured images:
PRAGEETH MANOHANSA, 2014, Chromatic VI, Screwdrivers on metal frame, 71x71x23cm
PRAGEETH MANOHANSA, 2014, Tangled, scrap metal, 270x250x250cm

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